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Hardball With Chris Matthews

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John Edwards 20, Us 10, Yemen 3, Todd 3, Fbi 3, Todd Harris 3, Aig 3, Steve Mcmahon 3, Palin 3, New York 2, U.s. 2, Maine 2, Siemens 2, United States 2, Obama 2, Bobby Kennedy 2, Susan Collins 2, Dianne Feinstein 2, George Bush 2, Brown 2,
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  MSNBC    Hardball With Chris Matthews    News/Business. Leaders and  
   newsmakers debate political issues. (CC)  

    February 3, 2010
    7:14 - 8:00pm EST  

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welcome back to "hardball." republicans have been criticizing the obama administration for being too soft on the christmas day pland0 bomber, for reading him his miranda rights. now comes word that the terrorist suspect is giving useful information to his interrogators. can republicans go after the president for how he handled the christmas day plane bomber? senator dianne feinstein chairs the committee. madam chairman, senator, is the case up in the air as to the best way to handle these terror suspects. >> well, in my view, it is not up in the air. i think what we've seen is something very unique which is
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politicizing it. this is the same way that bush 1, bush 2, clinton handled it. and every single terror suspect was handled this way in the eight years of george bush's administration. a couple were transferred into the military jurisdiction, but they were all initially charged when committing a crime in this country in an article three court essentially. it is just not true that the fbi cannot interrogate. i think the best interrogation that i have seen in the eight years i have been on the intelligence committee and 17 years i've been in the senate is actually performed by the fbi. >> we have reasons for interrogating people for criminal reasons. we try to determine their guilt or innocence, try to understand the crime itself. we have intelligence reasons for interrogating people. can they be performed by the same prosecutor, the same interrogator, that function? >> well, they can be trained by
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people who are trained in this kind of interrogation. the fbi's had a very good record. i mean, an agent, jack klunnan in 1993, the world trade tower bombings, he interrogated the blind shaikh, got convictions and got people to turn on one another. it was a very successful interrogation and it was not done with any enhanced interrogation techniques. so they know how to interrogate. i can tell you without going into detail because i have been briefed that the interrogation of abdulmutallab has been handled well, it has been effective, operations have been put in play and it has been a very good experience. additionally, the attorney general today wrote a letter to
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l senate and i'd really urge everybody to read that letter. it very carefully outlines what his legal practice, what his past practice what this attorney general and this administration is doing. and i believe they are absolutely correct. secondly, i believe, though, that the administration should have flexibility in this issue and flexibility to determine whether the individual might be transferred toward military jury jurisdiction or not. but the point is these are crimes committed in this country and, therefore, there are certain legal strictures that do apply. >> okay. senator dianne feinstein, thank you, senator. >> thanks, chris. with us is susan collins of maine on homeland security. thanks for joining us. attorney general eric holder wrote in a letter today, since the september 11, 2001, attacks, the practice of the u.s.
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government followed by prior and current administrations has been to arrest and detain under federal criminal law all terrorist suspects apprehended inside the united states the prior administration's policies expressly endorsing this approach. how can you deny this administration is doing something wrong if it is doing something exactly the way the previous one did. your thoughts, senator? >> well, chris, first of all, that would imply that i agree with the previous administration's handling of some of these terrorists. it is ironic to say the least to have the obama administration now saying we're just following what the george bush administration did when they have been saying that everything the previous administration has done was in error on most things. but here's my point. i believe that before a decision is made on whether to detain a
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captured foreign terrorist in a military system or in our civilian courts there should be consultation with the intelligence community. and i know from asking the question of the director of national intelligence, the secretary of homeland security and the director of the national counterterrorism center that they were not consulted before abdulmutallab was told that he didn't have to answer further questions and given a lawyer at our expense.ç that simply does not make sense given how critical it is that we secure as much information to try to prevent future attacks. >> here i have a letter. you've seen it, from the attorney general to you.
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he says "i made the decision to charge mr. abdulmutallab with federal crimes to seek his detention in connection with those charges with the knowledge of and with no objection from all other relevant departments of the government. he goes on to say he checked with the intelligence community and got no objections about his course of action. you say there was no consultation? >> that is correct. i would draw a distinction that it is far different to inform someone of a decision that's already been made versus consulting with them. it is clear that abdulmutallab had a great deal of information. he had just come from yemen. we know that yemen is a hot bed for al qaeda. we know that plots are being hatched against this country. what we had was a very brief interrogation followed by five to six weeks during which time al qaeda is not just twidling it thumbs in yemen, it is changing its plots, moving around, swapping out communications
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equipment. that was valuable lost time and we could have learned information that might have been extremely valuable to helping to thwart future attacks. >> i'm open to your argument. what is the best way to get information when we need it? what would you do with the ft. hood situation where you have an american involved apparently being influenced by a lackey and having communication with a foreign person of the united states. at what point is someone a foreign sneags was sir han sir han working for a middle east terrorist group when he killed bobby kennedy. at what point do you deny a person of his rights because you believe they are under the influence of a foreign entity? >> first of all, anyone put in a civilian court has the same rights as an american citizen. that is why the initial threshold decision is so important.
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it is ironic because major hasan is going to go through the military system, a military court-martial. he's not going to be in the civilian court system because he's a member of the army. it seems to me if that is good enough for major hasan it ought to be good enough for ç abdulmutallab. >> how do you decide someone is an agent of a foreign power or enemy combatant? assassins in this country operating out of loyalty to foreign masters. lee harvey oswald was in love with castro, sir han sir han
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hated bobby kennedy's policy. where do you draw the line saying that person is an agent and that person is not. how do you know? >> that's why you can't have a unilateral decision made by the department of justice which is what you had in this case. clearly the justice department is a critical player, but so is the director of national homeland security, the cia, the discrepancy. so what you do is a consultation with all those parties so you find out what information do they have in intelligence files that might well affect the decision on where the person should be detained and questioned and also tried.
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>> they are very good arguments. thank you for bringing them to us. susan collins of maine. a member of the homeland security committee. i think your arguments are winning a lot of people. eliot spitzer went on the colbert report. he doesn't have to worry about being humiliated. this is fascinating to watch. that is next. you are watching "hardball" only on msnbc. back to "hardball." breathe right, the small strip that gives you...
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back to "hardball." time for the "sideshow." eliot spitzer was on colbert for the first time he was caught with a prostitute and had to resign. here he is. >> i know that guy has to be an honest broker because you've got nothing to lose, right? >> that sums it up. >> yeah. you got no public image to uphold. it is better you don't uphold your public image at this point. >> there is a certain virtue to be able to tell the absolute truth and stick it to people without worrying about repercussions. >> right. there's nothing they've got on ç
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you. >> not anymore. >> ben bernanke who oversaw the collapse of not just the united states but the entire world financial system and brought our economy to its knees has been reappointed as head of the fed. >> right. >> does this give you hope for being re-elected governor of new york? because may i remind you, he screwed everybody. >> i just became a fan of ben bernanke. >> i love colbert. spitzer is doing it right. he quit. gave up the governorship and showing the humility, well-earned humility this country is willing to accept. sarah who?
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watch senator scott brown dance away from sarah palin saying he never spoke to her. >> do you think that sarah palin is presidential material? >> well, sure. she has been a mayor and a governor and has a lot of national following. the more people in a presidential race the better. she never contacted us and vice versa. >> really? she has never contacted you? how do you figure this statement from palin's camp. governor palin spoke with a very happy senator-elect brown this evening and congratulated him. hmm. after being called out yesterday the brown camp said palin's election night call slipped his mind. it is interesting we remember forever talking to a hero but find less significant chats slipping from our minds. could he really have had a conversation with the alaska governor and forgotten it this you bet you. aig's unit that drove aig in the ground, well, it is bonus time again. how much bonus money is being paid out to current employees. $100 million. going to the guys that got aig in the mess. grab your pitch fork big number.
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up next former john edwards' aide andrew young is throwing the book at his former boss. he will be here to play "hardball." uh, this is just your office. cool it, johnny touchdown. ready! gentlemen, you're about to lose to the smartest... set! most classy... lick! highest quality... handsomest dsrl champions ever. in fact, soon the trump organization will acquire the manning name and turn it into a luxury hotel that will set a new -- done! done! winner! taste it, trump! how does that feel, donny? you're fired. you're fired. nice suit. you're a dashing man. i know it. ♪ dsrl!! whoo! yes!
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authorities in illinois say that a man with a rifle is holed up inside of a grocery store possibly with hostages. the gunman fired at least 20 rounds when the police arrived on the scene. at least five customers, all of the stores employees, made it out with no injuries. but a manager is unaccounted for
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and there could be more customers still inside. meanwhile, at least three people were killed when a u.s. military chopper crashed. a judge in haiti is expected to rule tomorrow on weather ten american baptists will stand trial on child trafficking charges. the children may not have been orphans after all. haitian parents may have handed their children over to the missionaries on promises they would be better cared for in the dominican public. now back to "hardball." welcome back to "hardball." "sex lies and videotape" last month john edwards admitted he fathered a child by rielle hunter. andrew young has written a tell all book called "the politician." insider of john edwards' pursuit of the presidency. andrew young welcome to "hardball."
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you are a valache papers kind of guy. you were in the mob and ratting out the mob. how do you feel about john edwards the guy? >> first of all, loyalty runs two ways. with john edwards it only ran one way. i loved john edwards for as long as i possibly could. i gave him more than two years. he promised me he was going to come clean as soon as the election was over and i waited as long as i possibly could to try to get this behind me. >> he promised to come clean about his relationship about rielle hunter if he lost, not if he won? >> he promised as soon as the election was over and/or if elizabeth died first he was going to come clean. >> if he won would he come clean, did he tell you? >> yes. he told me he was going to come
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clean about the whole thing. >> one thing that staggers me. he seemed to be under a delusion that he could leverage the fact he was john edwards after he got creamed in iowa and facing the fact he fathered a child and the baby was going to be born. he was still trying to leverage the vice presidency and attorney generalship and get a speaking gig at the convention in primetime.ç what is it about john edwards that led him to believe he could get something out of nothing? >> chris, you've been at this a lot longer than i have. it is something politicians, especially politicians that run for president, feel like they are untouchable. they feel like they can get away with almost anything. it is not just politicians. it is powerful people in los angeles and new york. john edwards felt like he could use the delegates he had
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retained to use that as influence to get a v.p. or attorney general spot with obama and with clinton. >> let me ask you about your role when you went on the lam, the high sierra, you and the baby and rielle hunter and your wife went out. who paid the tab? >> fred marin was. the trial lawyer lobby wanted john edwards in the attorney general spot because of tort reform. >> he would be a ringer. >> tort reform was a huge issue. trial lawyers were laying off employees in mass numbers. >> they wanted john edwards in there to protect their money. >> desperately. >> what was his feeling they could make as much as they could. >> i never heard him say it that explicitly, but, yes. >> was john edwards worth the
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money he made as a trial lawyer or was he clever and seducing the rural jurors i read his book. i didn't see any genius. have you figured out why he got to be senator, bankrolled by the trial lawyer bench and almost got to be president. what was his secret? >> first of all, i'm a big fan of you. all of us in north carolina are not holding tea parties and burning crosses. john edwards, they are not a bunch of rural bumpkins. john edwards was very successful and rose to the top because he was very charismatic and a very hard worker. within nine years he was three times the viable vp pick, two times a viable presidential pick. >> you are building him up again. >> the truth of what i write in the book is the first several years i worked for him, the first two years was immediately after their son wade had passed. john edwards was a good man. i truly loved him and his
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family. we got to be close. we vacationed together. we went to final four together. you name it. we were close. somewhere along the lines of ç when -- after kerry lost, you know, he was no longer serving in the senate. for two or three years he traveled the world, visiting with billionaires in russia, going to anyone with tony blair. everybody treated him like he was the future president waiting. obama and clinton at that point for those years were not seen as viable threats. >> yeah. how long did you work for him when he thought you were loyal to him but you weren't? how long did you convince him use were a loyalist but had
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given up on him morally? >> i would like to say i was loyal to him -- >> no. how long did you stay with him after being loyal to him? >> probably a year. >> a year basically an undercover guy working for a guy who thought you were loyal but you weren't? >> i'm not trying to make excuses for anything we did. >> no you. not we. >> i'm including my family. >> you worked for a guy you were pretending to be a loyal aide to john edwards when you really weren't. you were working against him or didn't like the guy anymore. >> i don't know i was working against him. i was not on john edwards' payroll. >> he thought you were an edwards guy? >> definitely. >> how do you feel about being basically a rat fink. i can't imagine being in politics working for a guy i had given up on. seems to me you ought to get out. find another job. get out. don't work for somebody you think is a louis. you did for a year. >> let me finish. if you recall, once the lie was
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told that i was the paternal father the edwards and the campaign went everywhere they could claiming that i was a thief, i was ineffective employee, somebody who did the laundry. >> at that point you had to get out. did you get out at that point? >> no. no, i didn't. i raised millions of dollars for these guys. when this went forward to the end there was no place for me to go to get a job. i have three kids, two with health issues. was it morally right what we did? absolutely not. at the same time i had responsibilities. >> i hear you. would we be in trouble now if he had become, let's say would the democratic party been in trouble if he had become the nominee for president or vice president? would this have gotten out and destroyed the party's chances. >> my personal opinion, yes. >> would it be bad for america to have him as vp of the united
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states? >> absolutely. >> why? >> john edwards had all the attributes you look for in a president except for one.ç he had the leadership skills. he was incredibly intelligent. elizabeth is incredibly intelligent. when he was on. at times he came across as a used car salesman. the one attribute he didn't have was ethics. there was a cold, calculated almost jekyll and hyde personality to him that would be unbelievably scary. when i first started in politic$ it used to be you had to be a visited democratic or republican that had worked their way through the ranks and people knew about you. a military leader.
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a business leader. as it is now if you can do a 30-second sound bite, raise money and have a lobby like the trial lawyers behind you, you can be president of the united states. >> the thing that scared me about him, andrew, he was attractive. i suppose he could win people over in a small room. he is very effective. i get the feeling he never read a book. i don't think he read the newspaper. i think he had a total lack of intellectual interest in the presidency. i don't know why he was pursuing it. did you get a sense he had an intellectual reason to be president? >> i think he was inspired -- his son, you know, this was one of his son's dream for him to run for office.
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you know elizabeth edwards very well. she is one of the smartest people on the planet. going back to law school they had almost a partnership and they practiced. she was the brains. she ran the campaign. she wrote all the papers, the speeches. he was the spokesperson. >> yeah. i always thought she was great and he was a lightweight. no intellectual don't. all sail and no cargo. elizabeth i always liked her. you have a book out called "the politician." what is the real worth in reading this book besides expose? >> a couple of things. it talks about the seduction of politics. how people like myself get roped into believing, you know, just like reggie love and other people, you can take a short track from being just a common campaign laborer to working at some of the highest levels in the white house. >> i know. >> but it shows betrayal. john edwards, here is the truthç john edwards was one of my best
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friends and i took a bullet because i believed in him and he backed over me with a semi truck. >> thanks. >> sorry. >> we've got to go. thanks for joining us on "hardball." ( scoffs ) false! it is false. they actually saved more. an average of $473 a year. now that's the right answer. ♪ some pharmacists only dispense prescriptions. your walgreens pharmacist also dispenses wisdom... to help you stay well. so if you're on medicare part d, schedule a free one-on-one plan review session... with your walgreens pharmacist. they'll review all your medications... no matter where they're from... and help you get the most from your plan.
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while some people say that they are democrats, the question is how many of them are willing to vote. "hardball" returns after this. to make this number go up... and help this one go down. v8. what's your number? ♪ (announcer) right now, all over the country, discover customers are getting five percent cashback bonus on travel. it pays to get more, it pays to discover. somewhere in america... the slightest breeze harbors immense power. the tallest buildings leave the lightest footprints. a fifty-ton train makes barely a mark on the environment. and a country facing climate change finds climate solutions. somewhere in america, we've already answered some of the nation's toughest questions. and the over sixty thousand people of siemens are ready to do it again. siemens. answers.
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we're back. former secretary of state and retired general colin powell weighed in on the fight over ending the military's don't ask, don't tell policy today. here's his powerful statement. "in the almost 17 years since the don't ask, don't tell legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed ." wow. let's bring in a strategist, democrat steve mcmahon and republican, todd harris. i'm amazed. people don't change their minds. when he changes his mind, it's a
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big deal, on top of mike mullen saying he personally thinks we've got to get rid of, open service seems to be the call. >> colin powell coming out and doing this is an absolute game changer. there is a generational split. younger people think that gay and lesbian americans -- >> they think we're crazy at this age to have a debate. >> they don't have a problem with gay marriage. one of the reasons that republicans are having a problem with young people is because they're on the wrong side of so many social issues. this is just another example of that. >> the key question, todd, not the only question, but a key question is whether young service people, those who volunteer to risk their lives, to give their careers to military service, howç they adjust to it. i think that's part of the answer. it's not, they don't have the right to veto it, but how is that question answered? your thoughts? >> well, it would be answered in a realtime lab experiment if they actually overturned the ruling. but, you know, i think that -- i have to say, i think that this is not great politics for president obama. even if you put aside what
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people think about this specific policy, there are basically three groups that have opinions about this. there are people who are going to hate it, there are people who are going to love it, and then there are people in the middle who think largely that this administration is trying to tackle too much right now. overwhelmingly, when you look at polling data and you say what should the focus of the obama administration be, it's jobs and the economy. and the more there are issues like don't ask, don't tell, cap and trade, that look like this administration is taking their eye off the ball, it's bad politics for democrats. >> okay. when would you say would be a good time to bring up it shall of don't ask, don't tell? give me a year. >> well, i would say when we're not in the middle of two wars -- >> for 17 years we've been putting it off. >> we haven't been in two wars for 17 years with the unemployment rate where it is today. so i would say for most people, they would say this is not the right time. >> i don't know when the right time is. i've got to go. we'll be right back with "hardball" and this debate.
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speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. no matter how i look at this issue, i cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which "f#orces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. >> wow. that was admiral mike mullen, speaking for himself, he said, on tuesday. we're back with the strategist, democrat steve mcmahon, and republican, todd harris. your thoughts. you want to change this law? >> absolutely. i'm told that the commanding officers of the military were telling president obama privately it was only a matter of time before the policy was going to change anyway, and the president said, it's time to do it now. i disagree with todd, i think it's good politics. because the people who hate this are never going to vote for the president anyway. the people who love it are going to give him a lot of credit. and the people in the middle are
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very tolerant are voting democratic on these kind of issues. >> todd, i don't know the numbers or what you go by, but there are a lot of gay people in the country. aren't they going to be thrilled by the fact that the president has taken up this cause publicly again? >> i'm sure they will be. but to steve's point, they're largely voting for president obama anyway. the issue, i don't think when it comes to independent voters, that this is a gay rights issue, where people who either are -- >> it's an equality issue, todd. >> hold on. my point in bringing this up is that there are a lot of people right now who are hurting economically, and if they feel like, regardless of how they feel about this issue, if they feel like the administration is not focused on jobs and the economy, i think that's going to hurt democrats this fall. >> quick question, todd, are you for opening it up to open service, yourself, personally? >> well, you know, i'm not running for office, so my personal opinion doesn't matter -- >> no, but i want to know. i'm curious right now.
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are you for this policy of open service or not? >> look, i'm a libertarian, i don't really care about most of these issues. >> in other words, you're for open service, but you're here speaking for the nay bobs who don't agree with you. i love the way you patronize your party. anyway, thank you, steve mcmahon and todd harris. join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 eastern for more "hardball." "countdown with keith olbermann" starts right now. which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? president's question time, again. not as many face plants, but not a good day to be senator blanche lincoln asking for bipartisan economic reform. >> are we willing, as democrats, to also push back on our own party and look for that common ground that we need to work with republicans and to get the answers? >> if our response ends up being, you know, because we
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don't want to -- we don't want to stir things up here, we're just going to do the same thing that was being done before,q' i don't know what differentiates us from the other guys. and i don't know why people would say, boy, we really want to make sure that those democrats are in washington. fighting for us. >> seeya, blanche. and bye, even. another unprecedented day in american political history. the president also insists health care reform will still happen. what you insisted on, today's free health clinic at hartford, connecticut. abdulmutallab keeps on talking, implicating his co-conspirat co-conspirators. and oddly, so do the republicans. >> there's no indication that this administration, it's learned anything from the christmas day bomber. >> yeah, actually, they've learned everything else about the plot.

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